Music and movies have been inseparable ever since pianists and even orchestras accompanied showings of silent films back at the turn of the 20th Century. So it made perfect sense for the first Asbury Park Music in Film Festival (which began on Friday and continues through Sunday) to incorporate live performances along with its film showings and panel discussions.
For the “Soundtrack of Our Lives” showcase at the Wonder Bar, Friday, five local bands were charged with bringing music from favorite films and directors to life. It proved a mixed bag, with some sets more successful than others, but the evening certainly made for a tuneful way to let loose over a few beers after sitting in darkened rooms watching films all day.
The much buzzed-about Wyland from Essex County started the night with a short set culled from the soundtrack of 1999’s “American Beauty.” Stripped down to a trio for this performance, the band seemed a bit perfunctory but came alive for a rocking rendition of the Free’s “All Night Now” (which 20-something frontman Ryan Clark admitted he thought was originally done by Bad Company). Sound clips of dialogue from the film set the scene for each song — a nice touch. Disappointingly, with bands like Folk Implosion, Eels and Gomez to choose from, Wyland stuck with the more familiar classic rockers from the soundtrack, but displayed all the qualities that have made this young group one of the most talked about up-and-comers in the Garden State: Charismatic vocals, polished musicianship and accomplished stage presence.
The instrumental prog-rock group The& Hive-Mind from Ocean County took another tack for its set, playing music from the score of George Romero’s zombie classic “Dawn of the Dead.” While the group handled the complicated arrangements and tricky instrumental passages with a deft hand, the music lost much of its impact without context (or zombies).
Montclair’s hippy folk quartet The Porchistas kicked off their collection of tunes from the Vietnam-era “Platoon“ soundtrack with a rousing honky-tonk version of “Okie From Muskogee,” a song that perfectly suited the band’s talents and rustic back-porch sound. Their attempts at psychedelic classics or soul tracks like “Respect,” “White Rabbit” and “Groovin’ ” seemed more like game attempts at karaoke, but as always, the ebullient personality of frontman Alan Smith keep things light and engaging.
Tom’s River’s Creeptones had the enviable but daunting task of recreating the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” and couldn’t have done a better job of capturing the Fab Four’s indelible sound, right down to perfect three-part harmonies and George Harrison’s twangy guitar solos. Lead singer Carmine Stoppiello’s voice even bears an eerie resemblance to John Lennon’s, and he accompanied his picture-perfect vocals by switching between 12-string acoustic and electric guitar. Bassist William Hernandez impressed with his harmonies as well as a few lead vocals, and drummer Tom Cirillo nailed Ringo’s driving beats and percussion fills.
North Jersey’s Long Faces finished the night performing tracks pulled from the soundtracks of Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, including popular songs by acts as disparate as The Faces and Chuck Berry. The band impressed as polished and professional, well-rehearsed, and even gilded the lily by throwing in one of their originals along with their soundtrack picks.
By the end of the night, it seemed clear that “Soundtrack of Our Lives” was less about honoring film music than showcasing the eclectic talents of New Jersey’s diverse music underground, from pop to prog, folk to psychedelic, promising young guns to seasoned veterans.
For information about other festival offerings throughout the weekend, visit APMFF.org.